Earlier this season, I said the best way to describe the Houston Aeros was "consistently inconsistent." When you expect them to play their best, they play their worst. When you expect them to play their worst, they play their best.
Despite having three high-octane scorers in Krys Kolanos, Corey Locke, and Jesse Schultz, the Aeros are a better specialty team unit than they are a five-on-five unit. They're a team that has trouble holding a lead, but they're also a team that has shown an ability to come back from behind and defeat anybody. They play better tired than well-rested.
It's a team that head coach Kevin Constantine has been unable to figure out this entire season. Yet despite slumping at the end of the season, and despite the loss of the team's two primary goal keepers, the team made it to the playoffs. And despite all of that, the team was able to pull off a first round upset.
Thus comes tonight. The start of West Division Finals.
The Aeros are up in Milwaukee to take on the Admirals in the first game of a best-of-seven series. The Admirals, which finished with the most points in the AHL, are in many ways a better team than the Aeros. But the Aeros actually had a decent record against the Admirals this season, going 3-1-1-1 for a possible 8 out of 12 points this season.
But here's the big problem, I haven't seen the Aeros play Milwaukee in this calendar year. All of the games in Houston against the Admirals were back in 2008. I had had an overload of watching the Aeros and Peoria play games the last month of the season, so I had a pretty good handle on how those games would go. I don't have such a strong handle on this team now.
But I think I have a good enough handle on the Aeros to make a prediction. The Aeros will pull off another upset and defeat the Milwaukee Admirals in six games.
And here's why. Krys Kolanos.
I was in the locker room after Monday's game interviewing the team. And they're happy and shouting and celebrating. And then there's Krys Kolanos. He's got a smile on his face. He's happy for his teammates. But there's something else about him. He doesn't ramble in the answers he gives. He gives straightforward assessments of how the team played. He's calm. He's composed.
And I see it. He's not happy with their play. He's not happy with his play. Sure, he scored the game's first goal. Sure, by the force of his will he was nearly the only guy to play to his ability in that disastrous game-seven second period. But I'm talking to him, and I see it. He doesn't care about beating the Peoria Rivermen. Sure, it was nice to get to win, but that win is only a necessary step. He wants to win it all.
The Aeros are a different team when Kolanos is on the ice. They all seem to have this confidence that with him there, they can score at any time. Locke can rack up the points, and he can be fun to watch. But he can't create on his own like Kolanos. And Kolanos knows he can do this, and the team seems to know he can do this, so it's like they play looser when he's out there, which helps everybody.
So that's my key. I'm going with Krys Kolanos. I just think the guy wants to win, and nothing is going to stop him, and if he has to pull the entire team along with him, then so be it. And nothing against Milwaukee Admirals goalie Drew MacIntyre, but if Peoria Rivermen goalie Manny Legace -- a former NHL All-Star -- couldn't stop Kolanos from scoring, then I don't think MacIntyre will have much luck either.
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There you have it. The upset. Again. The Aeros will win it in six.
And Milwaukee, you better hope this doesn't go to a seventh game, because then another factor comes into play. The Kevin Constantine-coaching-an-underdog-on-the-road-in-Game-Seven Factor. Because Constantine-coached teams don't lose game sevens when they're the underdog and on the road. He previously coached the eighth-seeded San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL to huge upsets over heavily favored number-one seeds Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils in game sevens in the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs. He's also done it several times in various other minor leagues. And he just did it on Monday night.
But it's not going to matter. Not with the Aeros winning in six.
P.S.: Before I go. For those who read Tuesday's Aeros post and that bit about the phantom goal let me add this. The Chron's Andrew Ferraro found still photo and video evidence that, in fact, a goal was scored by the Aeros that the refs didn't allow. Just in case any of you were really curious about that.